Object Identifiers

Object identifiers are unique numeric values that are granted by various issuing authorities to identify data elements, syntaxes, and other parts of distributed applications. Because they are globally unique, object identifiers ensure that the objects that are defined by these issuing authorities do not conflict with one another when different directories, such as Active Directory and Novell Directory Services, are brought together in a global directory namespace

Object identifiers are found in Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) applications, X.500 directories, Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP), and other applications in which uniqueness is important. Object identifiers are based on a tree structure in which a superior issuing authority allocates a branch of the tree to a subordinate authority, which in turn allocates sub-branches of the tree.

LDAP requires a directory service, like Active Directory, to identify object classes and attributes with an object identifier syntax. The object identifier is the value for the governsID attribute in a class-schema object and for the attributeID attribute in an attributeSchema object. These are required attributes; therefore, object identifiers are necessary when you create new classes or attributes.

Object identifiers in the Active Directory base schema include some issued by the International Standards Organization (ISO) for X.500 classes and attributes and some issued by Microsoft. Object identifier notation is a dotted string of non-negative numbers (for example, 1.2.840.113556.1.5.4), the components of which are shown in Table 4.5.

Table   4.5 Components of a Sample Object Identifier (1.2.840.113556.1.5.4)

Numerical Values of the Sample Object Identifier

What the Numerical Values Denote


ISO     ("root" authority) Issued 1.2 to ANSI, which in turn . . .


ANSI     Issued 1.2.840 to USA, which in turn . . .


USA      Issued 1.2.840.113556 to Microsoft, which . . .


Microsoft     Internally manages several object identifier branches under 1.2.840.113556 that include . . . .


Active Directory     A branch called Active Directory that includes . .


Classes      A branch called Classes that includes . . . .


Builtin-Domain     A class called Builtin-Domain.

Object identifiers ensure that every object is interpreted appropriately — for example, that a telephone number is not mistaken for an employee number. A series of widely used objects and attributes is standardized for use in object identifiers. New object identifiers are issued by standards authorities, and they form a hierarchy below which new object identifiers can be managed internally. An object identifier is represented as a dotted decimal string (for example, Enterprises (and individuals) can obtain a root object identifier from an issuing authority and use it to allocate additional object identifiers internally. For example, Microsoft Corporation has been issued the root object identifier 1.2.840.113556. Microsoft manages further branches from this root internally. One of these branches is used to allocate object identifiers for Active Directory classes, another for Active Directory attributes, and so forth.

Most countries and regions in the world have an identified National Registration Authority (NRA) responsible for issuing object identifiers to enterprises. In the United States, the NRA is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The NRA issues root object identifiers. An enterprise can register a name for the object identifier as well. There is a fee associated with registering the root object identifiers and registered names. Contact the NRA for your country or region for details. The International Standards Organization (ISO) recognizes NRAs and maintains a list of contacts on their Web site.

The issuing authority assigns an object identifier space that is a branch of the ISO-International Telecommunications Union (ITU) object identifier tree. Assume that your company is assigned the space 1.2.840.111111. You can extend this space internally as you want (within the constraints of the structure of an object identifier). For example, you can subdivide this space further (by appending dotted decimals to the object identifier root) and assign these subspaces to various divisions within your company. Each division, in turn, can further subdivide the subspace allotted to it. For example, by using the sample object identifier 1.2.840.111111, your company might have the subspace 1.2.840.111111.1.4 for attributes and 1.2.840.111111.1.5 for classes. An internal issuing authority within the company, using an Administrator account, might then allocate object identifiers from this space on request. The governsID attribute on every classSchema object and the attributeID attribute on every attributeSchema object are mandatory attributes that contain an object identifier string. In this example, all of your company-created classSchema objects have a governsID of the form 1.2.840.111111.1.5. x , where x is a decimal number. Similarly, all of your company-created attributeSchema objects have an attributeID of the form 1.2.840.111111.1.4. x .